Barrier-breaking Justice Leona Theron speaks at Women’s Day brunch

“There is still history to be made.” These are the words used by constitutional court appointee, Justice Leona Theron.

Justice Theron was speaking at a Women’s Day brunch hosted by the Juridical Society, a body representing law students at Stellenbosch University.

Justice Leona Theron poses with female law students at Women’s Day brunch, Klein Joostenburg Farm. PHOTO: Welile Makena

The event was held at Klein Joostenburg Farm this past weekend.

Theron went on to encourage the women in attendance to push through every glass ceiling, to get into the organisations and positions they want.

She reflected on the state of gender representation in law firms across the country.

“The majority of people enrolled in law programmes at tertiary institutions and the majority of people graduating with law degrees are women.

“Moreover the number of women qualifying to practise law is higher than that of men, yet men continue to outnumber women in law firms.”  

On the topic of maintaining career and work demands, Justice Theron said: “You have to have a good support system. It is possible to have a life in law, success in law, and have a family.”

Head organiser of the event, Khensani Hlongwane (22), said: “The Juridicial Society plans a Women’s Day event once a year to honour the women in our faculty.

“This year we were lucky enough to have the trailblazing Justice Leona Theron as our keynote speaker.”

“We’ve had the great opportunity to interact with members of our faculty, fellow students and alumni, learning and sharing our experiences as women in law and aspirant women in law.”

BA Law student Cav Brown (20), said, “I appreciated most the advice Justice Theron gave us on navigating the workplace as women in the field of law.

“Her being a woman of colour also stood out to me, it’s inspirational and makes me believe I can achieve what she has.”

Anri Swanepoel (21), an LLB Law student, said she felt that the event was about empowering women.

“Being here has ignited my passion for law, it makes me feel as though we can all be successful in this career.”

The event was also attended by newly appointed Dean of the Law faculty, Professor Nicola Smit, who also gave a short address.

Smit took over from previous Dean Sonia Human on the 1st of August.

Justice Leona Theron is renown for her historical appointment to the KwaZulu-Natal High Court when she was just 33-years-old.  

She has made her mark with significant judgements on the bench, including a judgement in 2008 in which she ruled that women should be given equal rights and benefits in customary marriages.

Theron is married with two children and is also an avid mountain climber, summiting Kilimanjaro last year. – Welile Makena